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Hosted productivity suites: Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft and Google agree that hosted productivity suites offer unique benefits for evolving business needs. Of course the two behemoths traveled very different paths to reach this conclusion, and bring different strengths to their respective offerings. Which one is right you?

Moderator

John Dix, Network World Editor in Chief, sets up the debates and recruits the experts. Contact him with thoughts and ideas, jdix@nww.com.

The experts

Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft Online Services says having online tools that complement existing on-premise productivity suites is a combination that is hard to beat.
Shan Sinha, group product manager, Google Apps for Business argues that Google Apps was built from the ground up as a hosted suite, and having that baked into the service's DNA makes a real difference.

Office 365 best of both worlds

Small businesses today are looking for ways to improve productivity and collaboration while reducing IT costs. However, many lack the time and resources to obtain the technologies the world's leading businesses use every day. Microsoft Office 365, which brings together Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Lync in an always-up-to-date cloud service, changes all that.

Office 365 represents the best of everything we know about productivity.

Microsoft pays customer $250,000 to use Office 365

With Office 365, businesses of all sizes can get the same robust capabilities that have given bigger businesses an edge for years, and their employees get new ways to work together with ease using familiar Office applications they already know and love.

Whether you're located in a large metropolitan city or a rural town, we believe you should be able to work the way that's best for you. Office 365 reflects this belief — whether it's the freedom to access the service from almost anywhere on virtually any PC, mobile phone or Web browser, or whether it's working with the tools businesses already have.

With Office 365, it doesn't matter where your technology lives. We offer applications and services that allow some parts of your business to use on-premises tools while others work in the cloud. The choice regarding what, when, where and if you want to move to the cloud is yours to make. So, while some of our competitors fight to make productivity solely about the cloud, we're more interested in helping you create, edit and share content that makes you and your business shine.

Built for business

The way people work together has evolved over the years and Microsoft Office has, too. Unfortunately, many small businesses haven't had access to enterprise-class tools, which are better suited to meeting the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce.

Some of these businesses have been forced to collaborate via email attachments, use their personal email account to send professional communications, and had no way to view and edit documents on a mobile phone. Having the wrong tools for any job is not only cumbersome, it also isn't very professional.

Neither is being forced to make due with consumer-grade applications that were retrofitted for the business world. Office 365 combines world leading productivity tools with advanced IT controls, enterprise grade security technologies, 24/7 support and the reliability people have come to expect from Microsoft.

Businesses care about features and functionality but, when evaluating productivity platforms, what they are really voting for is the future. That "vote" is cast with hard-earned dollars and comes with a set of expectations around what they'll receive. That's why leading companies such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Sartorius Group, Rexel and Toyota Boshoku Corp., governments such as the Northern Ireland Assembly, the State of California, Barcelona, Spain, and New York, educational institutions such as the Salesian School of Hong Kong and New York City public schools, and thousands of small businesses around the world are choosing Microsoft.

Microsoft's Office 365 launch puts Google on defensive

What these organizations share in common is the knowledge that they are working with a trusted adviser with deep roots in the enterprise and a long history of helping businesses to achieve their goals. These organizations, and thousands more like them, are voting for the peace of mind that comes from having the industry's leading productivity tools, which are designed to meet their unique business needs.

We're proud some of the world's leading companies have chosen to run their businesses on Office 365, and that honor comes with a lot of responsibility. We know our customers rightfully expect us to help protect their data and respect their privacy. Businesses that choose Office 365 are doing so because they want to work with a vendor that places a premium on retaining their trust.

At Microsoft, productivity is our day job, and we feel a deep responsibility to the millions of people who rely on us every day. The tools we build, the businesses they help grow and the people whose trust we've earned are what motivate us to continue to meet and, hopefully, exceed our customers' expectations.

Office 365 represents the best of everything we know about productivity. It provides the communication and collaboration tools people and businesses around the world need to get the job done — faster, better, easier. We think you'll agree.

Office 365 offers a range of service plans for a predictable monthly price from $2 to $27 per user per month. With Office 365 for small businesses, customers can be up and running with Office Web Apps, Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online and an external website in minutes, for $6 (U.S.) per user, per month. These tools put enterprise-grade email, shared documents, instant messaging, video and Web conferencing, portals, and more at everyone’s fingertips. Office 365 for enterprises has an array of choices, from simple email to comprehensive suites to meet the needs of midsize and large businesses, as well as government organizations. Customers can now get Microsoft Office Professional Plus on a pay-as-you-go basis with cloud-based versions of the industry’s leading business communications and collaboration services. Each of these plans comes with the advanced IT controls, innovative security technologies, 24/7 IT support and reliability customers expect from Microsoft.
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Google Apps is the pure & proven cloud

If you want a productivity solution that's built for modern times, then Google Apps is your best option.

Office 365 is analogous to taking a gas-powered car, replacing the engine with a battery and calling it an electric vehicle.

Office 365 is analogous to taking a gas-powered car, replacing the engine with a battery and calling it an electric vehicle. In reality an electric car is designed from the ground up around how the entire car should work, from the engine to the brakes, the dashboard and the gears.

Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office

That's what you get with Google Apps - it's built from the ground up to be a flexible, modern, true cloud platform. Here are some things to think about as you compare Google Apps and Office 365.

Born on the Web. We started our cloud business five years ago when we recognized that the way people work is fundamentally shifting. We are more connected and need to work from anywhere and from any device. The Web made sharing easy, and that resonated well with early customers. Today, 3 million businesses and counting have chosen Google, from companies such as InterContinental Hotels Group to National Geographic, Virgin America, NYU, the state of Wyoming and the US General Services Administration.

A pure cloud gets better over time and is always up to date. With Apps, simply refresh your browser for the latest innovation. Last year, our customers automatically received more than 125 new features. Conversely, Office 365 is still about the desktop and software, so it will always be tied to laborious and costly updates.

Designed for Teams. If your employees spend most of their time working together rather than on their own, Google Apps is the better choice. We work better together, and ideas seem to flow when we collaborate. Google Docs allows multiple people in the same document and you can see colleagues type in real time. Instead of comments, Docs has Discussions, which bring others into your documents for rich conversations. With Docs there's no need to worry about version control or email attachment overload, about checking a document in or out, or wondering if people outside your company use the same software.

Productive Anywhere. If your employees are highly distributed and mobile, then Google Apps is a compelling choice. Gone are the days of the homogenous workforce with Windows-issued PCs and Blackberries. Workers want the choice to use the device du jour, so today's productivity applications need to support virtually every platform. Google Apps is designed to work well on any device, on any operating system; Office 365 is optimized for Windows-based PCs and Windows Phone 7. With Google Apps you can sync email, calendars and documents to your device, edit them on the go and share from anywhere. You can start a document on your computer, move to your tablet and finish on your phone, then send it to your boss or to the world.

Simple & Affordable. If you'd rather not write a big check and use a decoder ring to determine what's included in your cloud offering, go with Google. With Google Apps we have a single, transparent, low price that meets everyone's needs: $50/user/year - for all businesses of all sizes. The same product is simple enough for the small company, and powerful, flexible and customizable enough for the largest enterprises. This year we also introduced a monthly no-commit option at $5/user/month, and there have never been extra fees for basics like 24/7 phone and email support, which Office365 doesn't offer to small businesses. Furthermore, we make it as easy for you to leave Google Apps when you want. We want to keep your business by continuing to innovate and making our products better, not by locking you in.

Security & Reliability. Running a reliable and secure cloud-based service at a large scale is challenging, and we have an excellent track record here. In fact, this year Gmail has been available 99.99% of the time, which translates to less than 5 minutes of downtime per month. That includes all downtime, of any duration, for any and all users. We don't plan for our users to be down, even when we're upgrading our services or maintaining our systems, and we make zero exceptions when calculating our uptime. If something does go wrong, we're transparent about it.

Ultimately, we have a fundamentally different vision for the future of software than the competition. And that's good, because it means you have a clear choice. Apps was born on the Web and built for the way we work today, and we think that makes us a better option for most businesses.

A parting thought: challenge assumptions and explore your choices. There was a time when abandoning the old typewriter was the more efficient, rational option, yet many still clung to its comfort and familiarity. Just look at where moving on from the typewriter has gotten us. We hope you make a similar choice in this new era.

Google Apps offers businesses, education institutions and governments simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools that increase productivity while reducing costs. Including Gmail for business, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Video, plus access to more than 60 additional Google services.
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